News A referendum will be held by the end of 2017 if the Conservatives win the next election

Sir Nicholas Macpherson is accused of trying to scare the public into a Yes vote in an EU referendum

BA challenged over transatlantic alliance plan

British Airways faces a battle to go ahead with its planned alliance on transatlantic routes with giant US carrier American Airlines (AA), it was revealed today.

Hitch delays new BA luxury transatlantic service

British Airways suffered an embarrassing hitch to its new luxury transatlantic service today.

True Murder, By Yaba Badoe

"Even now, after all these years, I can hardly bear to look in a mirror," is the opening line of this dark, atmospheric, densely patterned novel. Ghanaian pre-teenager Ajuba is sent to boarding school in Devon. A lonely, confused child, she befriends the charismatic Polly Venus, who talks entirely in transatlantic clichés ("Hallo?", "That totally sucks!", "You just don't get it, do you?"). Exploring the attic of Polly's house they find a bundle of what they take to be kitten bones. But they're not. They are the bones of babies.

The Bagel, By Maria Balinska

The famous story of the Polish defeat of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 being celebrated by the croissant is now thought to be apocryphal. Another baked commemoration of this event is possibly more credible – rolls in the shape of turbans and stirrups ("beugels" in German). Certainly the bagel became a staple of Yiddish communities in Poland.

DVD: Lie To Me (15)

Following Hugh Laurie's transatlantic success in House, British actors are enjoying a departure from their traditional role as sneering malcontent or hapless sidekick.

The feral beast: Barber says 'bye-bye'

Another blow for The Observer. Lynn Barber is jumping ship. The legendary interviewer, whose autobiography, An Education, has been adapted into a film by Nick Hornby due out next month, is said to be quitting The Observer in its darkest hour and decamping to the warm bosom of The Sunday Times.

Adrian Hamilton: Two-party politics is doing us no good

On the big questions the Tories and Labour seem determined to avoid any debate at all

Government downgrades terrorist threat level

The UK terrorist threat level has been downgraded from "severe" to "substantial", Home Secretary Alan Johnson said today.

Observations: Islington plays host to Europe's first 'Literary Death Match'

Marlowe aside, writers are probably the last people you'd expect to find in a bar brawl. But next Tuesday, the Old Queen's Head in Islington, north London will be the venue for Europe's first "Literary Death Match". Courtesy of Opium, an American literary magazine, the death match has become a feature of the cultural calendar in cities across the US, featuring such esteemed participants as Tom Perrotta (author of Little Children and Election), Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and Moby (the musician, not the whale).

Caffari and co beat British Isles record

The all-woman crew of Dee Caffari, Samantha Davies, Miranda Merron and Alex Sizer yesterday knocked over 17 hours off the record for sailing non-stop round the British Isles, setting a new time of six days 11hrs 30min 53sec in the Caffari’s Open 60, Aviva.

Leading article: Still semi-detached from Europe

The chickens of Gordon Brown's G20 summit in London came home to roost yesterday in Brussels at an EU summit in which Britain once again appeared embattled and bereft of ideas. In London in April the Prime Minister staked his claim as a leader of the western world in its fight against the recession on a close alliance with the United States and a demand for reflation – which most of Europe rejected.

Transatlantic pilot dies mid-flight

Co-pilots were forced to take over the controls and land a transatlantic passenger jet in the US today after the captain died mid-flight.

Telefonica dominate Volvo Ocean Race

A first and a third for Bouwe Bekking in Telefonica Blue reinforced Spain’s growing dominance of the inshore stages of the Volvo race yesterday as sistership Telefonica Black scored a second and a fourth.

EU competition probe could hit BA's American dream

Multiple anti-trust investigations question transatlantic agreements
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'